Suddenly, the Flyers are one of the hottest team in the Eastern Conference.
Anthony Stolarz stopped all 38 shots he faced and Oskar Lindblom’s goal 1:40 into the first period held up as the Flyers beat the Rangers, 1-0, at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday last night.
More on Stolarz’ career night, Lindblom’s continued coming out party, and more in six observations from the Flyers’ fifth-straight win.
Return of the Stoaltender
Judging by how he played in this one, you wouldn’t know that it was Stolarz’ first appearance since way back on Dec. 15th against Vancouver. The hulking goaltender was locked in from puck drop and didn’t look back, squaring up Rangers shooters all night and making life particularly difficult on Chris Kreider. The Rangers forward, who has a propensity for getting awfully close with netminders, spent all night trying to solve Stolarz to no avail and will undoubtedly see the Flyers goaltender in his nightmares in the coming weeks.
Early on you could see that Stolarz was dialed in from his first stop on Kreider, who flew down the left wing off a a great lead pass from Kevin Shattenkirk. Stolarz cut off what angle Kreider had and closed off the five-hole to make the save to get going. He came up with another strong stop, this time on Kevin Hayes, as the Rangers took advantage of a Flyers team playing the second of a back-to-back. Both plays started with the Rangers attacking the Flyers with speed and stretch passes out wide, but neither capitalized due to the strong work of Stolarz.
But his best work of the first period was a sprawling stop on Brett Howden, using all of his 6-foot-6 frame to get across the crease to deny the in-close chance. You can see below how he pushes to get across the crease and deny a really good scoring chance to protect the 1-0 lead.
He followed up his fine first period work with a nice save on Shattenkirk early in the second after the defenseman beat Radko Gudas to the outside. That was a theme most of the night as the Rangers’ speed out wide cause the Flyers defense some issues. Shattenkirk, in particular, was very active in joining the rush and had the speed and quickness to give the Flyers fits.
Later in the period with the Rangers armed with their second power play of the night Stolarz would come up with a pair of dandy pad saves with Kreider on top of his crease to keep the Flyers head 1-0. He tracked the puck beautifully throughout the penalty kill and took away the bottom of the net for Kreider on the doorstep.
Stolarz with the stop and the smirk. pic.twitter.com/u1Q38HuHFg— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) January 30, 2019
As if that wasn’t enough, just before the end of the power play he got across to deny Kreider again, stopping the one-time bid from the high slot and making it look easy in the process.
HUGE stop by Stolarz, again. pic.twitter.com/xfMCM7MdMM— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) January 30, 2019
It was a banner night for the netminder, and a welcome one considering the ice was tilted towards the Flyers’ end all night and they had no business getting two points out of this game save for Stolarz.
As I just said above, the Flyers really had no business being in this game given all the numbers against them. They were outshot 38-19, and survived mostly due to their goaltending and the 19 shots that they racked up while in the offensive zone. Advanced metrics weren’t kind, either, with the Flyers finishing the night with a Corsi-For of 37% per NaturalStatTrick and a Goals-For percentage in the same area.
The Flyers were held without a shot on goal from the 16:01 mark all the way down to 6:41 left in the first period, relying on Stolarz to keep things close. He stopped all 13 shots he faced in the first as the Rangers carried the first 20 minutes everywhere but the scoreboard.
The rest of the night wasn’t much more kind, either, as the Flyers managed just seven shots on goal in the final 40 minutes of game time. Though they were no doubt feeling the effects of their game with the Jets the night before, it still made for some tough hockey to watch at times and should have cost them.
What a night for Oskar Lindblom. First he leads off with a goal less than two minutes in and was one of the Flyers’ more noticeable forwards on a night when there weren’t many good ones. He got his game going below the goal line and worked hard along the boards all night. Heck, he even got in on the physical game, winning a puck battle against Shattenkirk with some authority.
Uhhhh wow. That could not have felt good. pic.twitter.com/HJF9C9D2br— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) January 30, 2019
The folks over at NaturalStatTrick pegged Lindblom as the Flyers’ best play driver on the night, checking in with a +23.42 Corsi-For Relative. Though he saw just 11:42 of ice-time, his play at MSG will surely catch the eye of head coach Scott Gordon and the coaching staff and hopefully lead to more shifts going forward.
Perhaps a Wayne Simmonds trade could also land Lindblom more minutes, though nothing is guaranteed on that front seeing as how James van Riemsdyk is the heir apparent to Simmonds’ valuable spot on the top power play unit.
If the power play was bad with Ghost...it’s even uglier without him
Hey speaking of the power play, holy heck was it awful in this one. Despite two power play chances, the Flyers managed all of zero shots all night while on the man-advantage. That’s wild. Not only were there no shots on net, there wasn’t much zone time for either of the two power plays on the night.
That’s a quick 0-for-4 out of the All-Star and bye week break, and they haven’t generated much without the presence of Shayne Gostisbehere in either game. Even though the Flyers’ power play is ranked near the bottom of the league even with Ghost, he’s a threat from the point that they don’t have without him and he’s crafty on zone entries, something they struggled with against the Rangers.
Let’s hope that Ghost isn’t out for too long and he comes back in time for the Flyers to finally figure out how to procure more production from a power play that shouldn’t be this bad.
Christian Folin killed a guy, and the Rangers got mad
Oh my, Christian Folin. pic.twitter.com/DNwlVWsGMZ— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) January 30, 2019
Kind of stinks when you have to go a brawl over a perfectly good open ice hit, eh? Well that’s what we’ve got here and say what you want about Christian Folin (he’s bad), but that’s a pretty nice thumping he put on old Brady Skjei and his crazy last name out there near center ice.
*Extremely Frank “The Tank” Ricard voice* “WE’RE GOING STREAKING!”
That’s five straight for the Flyers and six of seven to bring them a whopping 10 points shy of a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. While it’s cool to see them actively looking like a professional hockey team once again, there’s a long, long way to go before we see a miracle playoff run start to take shape.
And that’s OK because you can still have fun and win some games while theoretically keeping yourself in the race to land the two most coveted players in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. But for now, sit back, relax, and watch a couple young goaltenders drag this team to points every few nights.